Sunday, May 30, 2004

Five More Weeks

...until the due date of Baby Bagel. However, it's only one more week until Bagel is old enough that our local hospital (which doesn't have a NICU) will deliver him there instead of shipping me off to a larger hospital to deliver. So I am using that as my "horizon" as I walk only as far as the horizon. After that, my next "horizon" will be at 38 weeks.

Who Should Join Up?

You know, it just occurred to me this morning (news flash for all of you: I'm a bit slow on the uptake), but I can't help but wonder what sort of people the anti-military Left thinks ought to be in our armed forces defending our country. If they're poor and join up, they must be stupid or making the choice solely for economic reasons. If they're rich and they give up a nice life to join up (e.g. Pat Tillman), they must be out of their minds because who would give up a nice life? If they're competent, they would be better placed in the civilian world, but if they're incompetent, they should be drummed out of the military. If they can shoot they're "baby killers" but if they can't shoot they're "unsuitable for combat." I really don't get it. Who do they think ought to be defending our country? Who's left after they've excluded the poor and the wealthy, the sane and the insane? Nobody?

Has anyone on the anti-military Left stopped to consider what would actually happen if NOBODY were defending our country?

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Gardeners' Market Report

This week at the Gardener's Market was our best ever-- we grossed $140.50 in sales!!!! Now THAT'S more like it.

It was a cold, windy day today, and not many vendors set up. Our canopy blew over once, before we staked it down. But the holiday weekend drew crowds to the market, and between the extra customers and the lack of competition, we did a brisk business. M sold all of her socks (except the baby socks), one of her books, and a whole slew of bookmarks. And we sold the first of our learn-to-knit kits, which we were hoping to sell a bunch of since they have very little labor in them. We each also picked up a client for private lessons, and we sold two of the hats that I'd wanted to get rid of (I'm not making any more hats until the end of the summer, when hats come into season).

Hot mitts were once again my big seller, although dish scrubbers weren't too bad either. Oddly enough, the sage green oven mitts, which had sold out every week prior to this, didn't sell at all today. I had made extra of those to see if more would sell, but none did.

However, one of the sage oven mitts sold on eBay during the week, so I can't complain. So far everything I've put on eBay has sold. The fixed price listings seem to be working well, so I'll duplicate them again this week and see how they do. I sold three dishcloths and an oven mitt on eBay, and the diaper soaker prototype will sell (it's just a matter of how much it will sell for now). And I also sold three additional dishcloths off eBay.

We have some colored (non-organic) yarn coming in this week, and I need to put in another order for organic yarn. A few more weeks like this one would be really nice! Let's hope the summer inspires people to come to the market. I've noticed that most of my customers are middle-aged and senior-aged women, just exactly the sort of people who come to our town as "summer citizens". Hopefully now that the summer is in full swing, they will flock to the market.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Toward More Politically Correct Math

It's been suggested that math is not subject to the trends of political correctness, but I beg to differ. Here are a few suggestions to make geometry more politically correct:

1. Replace a minimum of 10% of the straight lines with lines of different sexual orientations.
2. Do away with the term "obtuse angle" as it carries negative connotations for angles.
3. Because it isn't fair for angles not to be equal, all angles are henceforth equal. Furthermore, all angles are right angles. Since the sum of the angles of a triangle must equal 180 degrees, triangles no longer exist.
4. I was going to say that in the interest of inclusion and fairness of all possibilities, angle-angle-angle, angle-side-side and angle-angle-side were going to be recognized as alternative methods of proving congruence of triangles. But since triangles don't exist, this is a moot point.
5. Formerly, only two points determined a line. From now on, any number of points will be allowed to determine a line, so long as the points love each other.

Pop Quiz Answers

The answers to the pop quiz below are:

Both of the quotes are from Democrats.

Extra credit answer:
A) Woodrow Wilson
B) Franklin Roosevelt

Weekly Gripe

It's been a while since I did the weekly gripe, mostly because I've been feeling pretty dang positive lately. But today I have something to gripe about: "recloseable" packaging.

Really, I don't know why they bother trying to make what is essentially a plastic bag or cardboard box "recloseable". On the plastic bags, they put this little dotted line that says "cut or tear here", but if you cut there (it's impossible to tear), the damn thing's still closed because they put the dotted line up into the heat seal. So you cut a little lower, but it's still not low enough. If you ever do cut low enough, you've just cut off the ziploc mechanism. If you decide not to risk cutting too low and you try to separate the heat seal by pulling instead, you somehow end up disconnecting the inner portion of the ziploc. Then you can zip it closed all you want, but there's still a big gaping hole running parallel to the zipper.

And the cardboard boxes? The little tab-into-slot thing is clever enough, but they've forgotten two very important things. One, they have made the box out of very flimsy cardboard, and once that tab bends, the box will never close again. Two, they glued the crap out of the very flimsy cardboard box, so that when you pry it open, it rips apart the slot, and then the tab (assuming it didn't get bent in the first place) won't stay in any more.

My advice: don't even bother trying to reclose those "recloseable" bags and boxes. Instead close them up the good old American way: with epoxy and/or duct tape.

Gum Control Laws Repealed!

If you make chewing gum a criminal offense, then only criminals will chew gum. So they've repealed the gum control laws in Singapore.

I just wish I could have written that headline with an "n" instead of an "m"...

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Presidential Quotes

Pop quiz, class. Each of the following quotes is from a President of the United States. How many of these were Republicans? Extra credit: name the Presidents without doing a Google search. Answers will be posted tomorrow.

Quote A:
It is a fearful thing to lead this great peaceful people into war... But the right is more precious than peace, and we shall fight for the things we have always carried in our hearts-- for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own governments, for the rights and liberties of small nations, for a universal dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself at last free. To such a task we can dedicate our lives and our fortunes, everything that we are and everything that we have, with the pride of those who know that America is privileged to spend her blood and her might for the principles that gave her birth and happiness and the peace which she has treasured.

Quote B:
I address you, the members of this new Congress, at a moment unprecedented in the history of the union. I use the word "unprecedented" because at no previous time has American security been as seriously threatened from without as it is today... every realist knows that the democratic way of life is at this moment being directly assailed in every part of the world --assailed either by arms or by secret spreading of poisionous propaganda by those who seek to destroy unity and promote discord in nations that are still at peace... In times like these it is immature-- and, incidentally, untrue-- for anybody to brag that an unprepared America, single-handed and with one hand tied behind its back, can hold off the whole world. No realistic American can expect from a dictator's peace international generosity, or return of true independence, or world disarmament, or freedom of expression, or freedom of religion-- or even good business. Such a peace would bring no security for us or for our neighbors.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

When In Doubt, Vote For The One With Balls

When there are a whole stable of candidates, all of whom take very pleasing positions on the issues I care about, I tend to vote for the one with the most balls. You see, a leader with a pair of big brass ones will have the courage to stand up for his or her convictions, making it more likely he or she will stick to the positions I like.

I was sad to see our state's current governor defeated in the primaries. While I disagreed with her on some issues, I thought she had bigger, brassier ones than a lot of the other guys running. I would have voted for her.

And that's why I'm voting for Bush in the fall. He and I disagree vehemently on some major issues. But he's the one with the balls, and I want above all a leader with balls.

Feeding Sonshine

Geez, that kid eats... he ought to be six feet tall by now, or grow an inch a night, but darned if he hasn't grown an inch for all that food he ate... I could spend my entire morning just feeding that kid.

Let's see, this morning he's had:
Two bowls of Life cereal
Several crackers
half a dozen (or more) slices of cheese
a piece of bread
a glass of milk
a banana
a small bag of cheese curds
a packet of fruit snacks

And it's only 10 a.m. He hasn't had his elevensies or lunch yet.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Blogger Quiz

Jon Henke of QandO passes this quiz along to other bloggers. He did say he was interested to hear what other bloggers answered, so here goes:

1. Which political party do you typically agree with? Republicans. But I find myself sometimes agreeing with my mom, who is a Democrat, on a lot of issues. But she's not a loony leftist Democrat, and she is married to a Republican (my dad) who I also find myself agreeing with.

2. Which political party do you typically vote for? I vote for whichever candidate I think will do the best job. I don't believe in voting a party ticket. However, it just so happens that a lot of those I vote for end up being Republicans, especially in local politics in this heavily Republican state (Democrats here practically have to run ads that say "Democrats: NOT the spawn of Satan".)

3. List the last five presidents that you voted for? Bush in '00, Clinton in '96 and '92. Before that I was too young to vote. And I should also note that before about 1996 or so I was not in possession of sufficient adult good sense. That being said, I think I still would have voted for Clinton in '96, but not in '92.

4. Which party do you think is smarter about the economy? If by "smarter" you mean "the leadership knows all the facts" then they are both equally smart. If by "smarter" you mean "the rank and file knows all the facts" then it's Republicans, hands down.

5. Which party do you think is smarter about domestic affairs? If by "smarter" you mean "has a more effective strategy for getting votes based on", then it's gotta be Democrats. But if you mean "has better ideas that will actually work", the Republicans have a mild advantage, but not much.

6. Do you think we should keep our troops in Iraq or pull them out? Nobody likes a three-eighths job (that's a less-than-half-@$$ed job). Keep them in until we finish the job, and do a damn good job too. Then shower them with praise when they come home, and let them have some quiet time with their families before they have to go kick someone else's tushie.

7. Who, or what country, do you think is most responsible for 9/11? Stateless terrorists and those who support them. This is not a matter of one country being responsible. We are all responsible to the degree that we allowed (or still allow) this evil to fester in our midst.

8. Do you think we will find weapons of mass destruction in iraq? No, because they're in Lebanon... or somewhere else by now. I do think we'll find them; I just hope it's before they explode on the New York subway or at the Athens Olympics.

9. Yes or no, should the u.s. legalize marijuana? Yes. And then let the FTC (or FDA, the acronym part of my brain isn't working today) pull it off the shelves like they did ephedra. And once that's done, reform the FTC (or FDA) and get ephedra back on the shelves.

10. Do you think the republicans stole the last presidental election? No, what happened was we showed that our election laws are inadequate to handle all possible scenarios. The way to prevent another election like 2000 is to rewrite the election laws so that they represent a terminating process that can actually be completed in the allotted time frame.

11. Do you think bill clinton should have been impeached because of what he did with monica lewinski? No. But I have to agree with Jon that this is a poorly framed question, since playing with a cigar was not what he got impeached for. He did deserve to get impeached for lying under oath, and all the congresspeople who believed that he lied under oath but didn't vote for impeachment are a bunch of amoral wussies. I may not remember who they are exactly, but I remember being thoroughly disgusted with their positions as I listened to the hearings on NPR.

12. Do you think hillary clinton would make a good president? Only if by "good president" you mean "one who does whatever makes her most popular". She'd make a good student body president.

13. Name a current democrat who would make a great president: I left my crystal ball back at my office. Only history can tell who will actually make a great president, and if history is still trying to decide whether Wilson was great, I don't think her verdict will be coming down in my lifetime.

14. Name a current republican who would make a great president: See #13.

15. Do you think that women should have the right to have an abortion? I believe that the question of precisely when life begins is one of those questions that we currently cannot definitively answer, but we can say that by the end of the first trimester it is more likely a life than not. I do believe that women should have the right to give consent to carrying a child. However, I also believe that the moment of consent, in most cases, occurs a short time after the pants drop. Therefore I am in favor of allowing first trimester abortions in cases of rape (no consent given) and incest (consent clouded by family dominance issues), and also in the early second trimester if the mother's health is in real danger (self-defense). I don't think elective abortion for lifestyle, gender selection, or birth defect should be allowed, but I would allow abortion in the case where the fetus is 100% not viable (a mere chance at life should be allowed to have its shot in the dark). I would never have an abortion myself, even if I were raped. But I don't think I can force that kind of moral fortitude on others, and I am not in a position to judge the effect a non-consensual pregnancy can have on them. Past the point of viability I support no abortions whatsoever except self-defense abortions; people who I would otherwise allow to have an abortion who wait that long are merely lazy and reap the consequences of their laziness.

I have to agree, though, with the idea that if you are against abortion that you ought to have a good idea what to do with the unwanted babies. I think adoption law needs to be seriously reformed so that adoptions are final and birth mothers cannot change their minds, and while I think adoptive parents still need to be screened, I would do away with the full rectal exam they currently have to endure. If the birth mother does not want the child, she can have it delivered and adopted. Under these conditions, more people would adopt locally instead of going to China etc. At the birth she can decide whether she wants to raise a child, but she's already made her decision whether or not to risk getting pregnant, so she can just take the consequences of her actions and complete the pregnancy.

16. What religion are you? I'm LDS (a.k.a. Mormon).

17. Have you read the Bible all the way through? Yes. And the Book of Mormon too. I've also read (though not all the way through) the Bhagavad-Gita, the Koran, etc.

18. What's your favorite book? Non-fiction: the Book of Mormon (of course), and Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen. Fiction: the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and anything dystopian (1984, Brave New World).

19. Who is your favorite band? They Might Be Giants. I also like R.E.M., although I mostly like their older stuff.

20. Who do you think you'll vote for president in the next election? Bush.

21. What website did you see this on first? Q and O.

Work No More!

My last day of paid work as a teacher is now OVER.

I do have a tutoring job tonight, however. Yet another kid who, it seems, has been struggling all semester and only now, days from the final exam, wishes to be taught everything he missed for the last sixteen weeks... sigh... There's not much I can do for people like that, but I'll take their money and do my best anyway.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Hey, My Hometown!

This is the center of my ethnic community in my hometown. I was married at this place.

Just a bit of local color to brighten up a rainy day.

The American Way

WARNING: Long rambling post ahead.

Since I was a child, I've had this recurring nightmare. In my nightmare, the details are always different, but the plot line is always the same: I live in a society where things look really great, but as I discover more and more about it, I find that underneath the happy surface is oppression and death. By the time I discover this, it has become difficult for me to escape; I've been deceived. I then spend the second half of the dream trying to escape the oppression and get to somewhere where I can be free. Once I dreamed that aliens came to our school. They were perfect looking and offered us cures for cancer, etc. But they really wanted to enslave us all by mesmerizing us with a puppet show. People disappeared and no one knew where they went.

The last time I had the nightmare, it was set in an environment in which the entire country was somewhat like a school. It was a democratic society. All the citizens were happy, concerned citizens, and the majority were decent, law-abiding people. But there was an element in the government that wanted to take away people's liberties in the name of decency. At first they did things like regulate the clothing people could wear, so that it would be modest. Since I was in favor of modest clothing, I did not call them to task, and I gave up that bit of liberty. But the regulations started going farther. Eventually they banned tampon use (on the grounds that tampons were indecent) and installed cameras in the bathrooms to enforce the law. Then I had to escape this oppressive government, but by now there were cameras everywhere. Heavily armed policemen chased me around; there was nowhere I could hide. That time I didn't get out. I woke up when they shot me.

Someone suggested to me once that I have this dream over and over again in different guises because there was something I needed to learn from it. I thought that over, and came to the conclusion that what I could learn from it was that ends do not justify means: that just because something looks good on the outside, or serves a good purpose, does not make it right. This sort of idea is summed up in the phrase, "Mussolini made the trains run on time." IIRC there was some debate over whether or not the actual trains in Mussolini's Italy ran on time, or whether or not he was responsible for the schedule, but that makes no difference to the meaning of the phrase: a government that achieves desirable ends through oppressive means is not as desirable as a government that achieves whatever ends while preserving liberty. Preserving this liberty, even at the cost of voluntarily given lives, is the American way.

We have seen this pattern over and over again throughout history. The countries that sacrifice liberty to make things "nice" for the average person end up oppressing first the few, and then the many. On the other hand, the fruits of liberty are apparent. The United States has great economic and political success because of its devotion to liberty above other things; and it fails to the extent that it takes away liberty. This is something I know now is true. I know this is true, not only because every experiment in the test tube of history has come out that way, but because it is also consistent with the laws of God and the intent of the creation.

I should quit talking about education in front of my sister M. She always rolls her eyes when I proselytize for the charter school. I don't think she understands why this school is so much better than the other public schools. It doesn't have a cafeteria, it barely has enough play balls to go around, and school administration is constantly being disrupted by elections. I understand her point of view; after all, it was mine when I was her age. She hopes to find some "cop-out" position that will allow both sides to be right at the same time. But what I've learned, in my eleven years' head start on her, is that while there are some issues in which right and wrong do not play in, liberty is not one of those issues. When it comes to liberty, it is simply wrong to abridge liberty and force people into situations where they cannot get out.

At the Gardeners' Market yesterday I had a conversation with a woman who was pulling her daughter out of the charter school because it was so "disorganized". I felt really sorry for her. She admitted she liked the charter's academic program better, but she wanted the easier option of her local public school, where the trains ran on time. I know that school district; it's the one I fought tooth and nail with over whether or not my Tiny Princess would receive education or would merely be herded off with kids her own age. That entire district is under the thumb of a dictator-like personnel director at the district office. No one in that district will so much as wipe their nose without her permission if they value their jobs. This district does an adequate job of educating its children to the extent that the children fit into its mold of what a child should be like. If a school in that district does good for all its students, it is because it is a benevolent dictatorship. But a benevolent dictatorship is still a dictatorship. One day this woman will retire, and another dictator will take over. And this time, the dictator may not be as benevolent.

In short, that school district is an oppressive environment like the one in my dream; and it is not worthy of the respect of liberty-loving people, even if it does result in good educational outcomes for the average child, even if it offers nice hot nutritious lunches in its cafeteria or boasts a state-of-the-art computer lab. Because if the administration decides to administer vitamins in the lunches, or force-feed students websites you don't want them exposed to, or examine your kids without your consent, you can't do anything about it. Just because right now they wouldn't do it doesn't mean one day they won't-- or that anyone would be able to stop them. This is unthinkable in my state, but it nevertheless is the way in which districts like that are headed. Just ask anyone from California.

The charter school, by contrast, is a school that respects liberty. It knows it cannot be all things to all people, so instead of trying to rope in all people and force them to fit in, it allows people to freely enroll or disenroll as they see fit. And you can see the difference in the educational environment. If the school tried to pull any of the stunts I described in the previous paragraph, the entire parent board would be recalled and the principal fired inside of a month. There are checks and balances that prevent one person from taking over the entire school and imposing her vision on it.

I hope I can teach my children the importance of liberty while they are young, so that they don't end up like I did in my early twenties, trying to rationalize away all sorts of infringements on liberty so that I could remain "open-minded" about all political positions. I don't want the first moment they know they are right and someone else is wrong to come at the age of 22, like mine did, while they are confronting a man who beat his wife severely, who said it was none of their business what he did to his wife. I hope that when moments like that come to their lives, that they will stand up for liberty and stand against oppression, even when oppression comes with a shotgun just feet away. This is the truly American way.

UPDATE: Maggie Gallagher sums it up thusly (emphasis mine): "When you are repelled, as we all occasionally are, by the ceaseless bombardments of the longest presidential campaign ever, by the sound bites and the talking points and the nasty comments and the relentlessly negative ads, by all the detritus of democracy we are attempting to bequeath to the Iraqi people, consider this: The central advantage of democracy is that in our system, ruthlessly ambitious men seeking power hurl words at one another, not bombs. As the Iraqis can attest, that's no small advantage." That's why they pay her (and not me) the big bucks to write essays.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Gardeners' Market Report

This week at the Gardeners' Market we grossed $58. Pretty good, considering that it was pouring rain for the first half of the market. M introduced a new product, beaded bookmarks, which was the only thing she sold. She traded a pair of socks for a henna design on her ankle. She also took a hefty special order, a rush job on a wedding guestbook.

Bags were today's big sellers. Because of the rain, we had moved the bags to the center of the pavilion instead of the side. They got a lot more eye traffic there, and we sold two of the smaller bags. I like selling the smaller bags because they are quicker to make and take less yarn. Scrubbers also sold well today.

We are starting to see more customers from out of town, as the "summer citizens" move into their condos and apartments. (Because our climate is cooler and we have tons of fun cultural stuff every summer, we get a lot of senior-aged refugees from the heat further south.) Hopefully, these older, wealthier people will buy our merchandise as gifts for their children and grandchildren back home or memorabilia from their trip to the mountain valley.

Results from the BlogAds survey

Preliminary results are in from the BlogAds survey. If you're curious about the demographics and habits of blog readers, click here. Link via InstaPundit.

Video "Editing" Bill

For those who haven't been following the issue, there is a move afoot to install in DVD players the capability to "edit" out nudity, violence, and profanity in movies. There is some controversy over this, with moviemakers insisting on their "artistic integrity"; i.e. insisting that viewers of their movies on DVD are required to watch the entire movie with their eyelids glued open, lest they miss a moment of the "art" by blinking.

Now Representative Chris Cannon of Utah is introducing a bill that would settle the question and make this on-the-fly editing legal.

I'm a big fan of the arts. I like that people can make movies about whatever they want. But I think people have had enough of all the sex and violence. Many people I know skip these scenes manually already. If this doesn't violate copyright law, how does it violate it to have a machine do the skipping? Do TiVo's violate copyright law when they allow users to skip commercials?

My favorite quote from the article, as I watch the defenders of the "artists" twist themselves into knots trying to justify their position, is the following:
To demonstrate his point that filtering can dramatically alter a message, Berman said he would enter Aho's testimony into the official committee record using "the Berman filter," changing Aho's statement that "ClearPlay does not violate copyright or trademark laws" to "ClearPlay does violate copyright or trademark laws."

Yeah, one has only to go to Oh, THAT Liberal Media to have an example of that principle. And notice that nobody's suing the L.A. Times for copyright violations for filtering the news their way.

UPDATE: I just ran across a Volokh post showing Slate doing this very sort of editing on Kerry. What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Test Post

Just testing a change in the settings.

How Evil Is Your Website?

Master of None points us toward the Gematriculator, which calculates how evil a website is based on Gematria. His website is only 41% evil, but Organic Baby Farm is 45% evil. And my dishcloth tutorial page is 88% evil! So I'm more evil than he is! Narny narny narny...

Next time we'll explore what makes dishcloths so evil.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Ambulance Chasers

Looks like one law firm quit chasing ambulances and is now parked outside the emergency room.

U.N. = Student Government

I've been wanting to post about this for quite some time, but I was waiting for a Den Beste-like exposition. Unfortunately that is never going to come. So I'll just put out my idea in a few sentences.

The U.N. reminds me an awful lot of student government. That is to say, it thinks it rules the schoolyard, but really it has no real decision-making power whatsoever. Student government gets to vote on what color of banner to hang on the student center. But if student government were to vote for a decrease in tuition costs, it wouldn't do a damn thing. The student council could pass a resolution declaring that the Dean of Students is fired, but it wouldn't happen. The student body president could get himself elected on a platform of change, but all he could change would be who DJ's the dances. This is because the students only have as much power as the university gives them. It is the REAL administration of the university that has the real power-- and in the case of a state university they only have as much power as the legislature gives them.

The U.S. is the "real administration" of the world. The U.N. can vote all they want about condemning Israel and all, but all they can really do without us is change the color of the decor.

Race Doesn't Matter

As a member of a darker-skinned family in an area predominantly populated by lighter-skinned people, we confront the issue of race sometimes. A few years ago, before they moved away, we were friends with a couple who had adopted some kids our kids' age. He was of Irish descent, she of some kind of Hispanic descent (I don't know which kind), and the kids were (in order) white, black, and half-and-half white and black. One time we got into a discussion about how she thought the black children ought to be exposed to "black" culture and told about their roots. I gave her my opinion, and it was thus:

All children should learn history. They should learn about their ancestors, and the ancestors of others who have influenced this nation. But it would be an error to think that because a child has dark skin and is the biological descendant of slaves, that she somehow must take on that culture even though her parents have a completely different culture. Like all children, she will adopt the culture of her parents and her environment, not the culture that someone happens to think belongs to her skin color.

It all boils down to one thing: Either race matters, or race doesn't matter. If race matters, we can talk about the degree to which it matters. But if it doesn't matter, and I would dearly hope it wouldn't, then a little black girl having to participate in "black" culture merely because of the color of her skin is an offensive notion. If race matters to others, who will assume that because she has dark skin that she participates in a particular culture, that is their problem. It is you, not they, who decides whether race will matter to you.

If you think it's worth perpetuating a society where race doesn't matter, if you believe in the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., then it behooves you to stand firm in your belief that race should not be a factor in decisions about your life, and be a beacon to others. But if you want to give in to popular opinion, to believe that just because others are racist you must be too, then by all means give in. Let the racists win your heart.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Gas Prices

Maybe THIS is why gas prices are so high. Link via

Illegal Pants-Wearing?

Eugene Volokh links to a story from Louisiana. Some people there are trying to make low-slung pants illegal to wear in public.

I am vehemently opposed to the wearing of low-slung pants that show underwear, but I think enforcement of fashion standards is best left to the fashion police, not the real police. If people were more proactive in persecuting people whose pants pop below the posterior, this wouldn't be such a pervasive problem. We needn't be rude; all we have to do is tap people on the shoulder and let them know that their butt is hanging out in an unflattering way.

I honestly think many of these people, particularly the women, are unaware of just how much of their cheeks are flapping in the breeze. A pair of pants that covers the underwear when standing in front of the mirror may display a good five inches of thong when a person squats down. This happened at my daughter's dance concert last year. I merely tapped the lady on the shoulder and told her her underwear was showing, and she immediately took action to cover it up.

The men, however, are a different story. I'm sure most of them are aware that their boxers are showing. I have been sorely tempted to keep a hank of rope in my car so that I can offer pieces of it to boys wearing low-slung pants. "Oh, you poor thing, you can't even afford a belt. Here, please, take this piece of rope and tie up your pants!" If I were a more mischievous person, I'd give the pants an "accidental" tug as I walked by, causing them to show even larger amounts of the boxer shorts. If you're going to show the top half, why not the bottom half too? In the interest of full disclosure, that is, if you're advertising yourself for sale.

If people knew that they were going to be subject to much public criticism based on their choice of dress, they might reconsider what they wear. Social forces are much more powerful than legal forces when it comes to matters of dress, largely because they do not require legalistic definition of what can and cannot be worn. Regulations on exotic dancers, for example, specify exactly how much flesh of what kind can be showing. I have difficulty picturing debate in the state legislature over nipple coverage, and nipples are a well-defined area of the body. I cannot imagine having to map out the human body and define where butt-cheeks begin, let alone having to make measurements on a potential offender to determine if the amount of cheekage exposed is legal or illegal. If, as this law would, we merely specify that showing undergarments is illegal, then a person who wears no underwear under their low-slung pants is not in violation of the law. However, such a person would quickly change their pants if strangers persisted in slipping pennies into their "coin slot".

This is the perfect context for vigilante justice.

Math Kills!

In the UK a boy has died for no apparent reason during a math test. If this had happened in America, how much do you want to bet some doofus would be out there blaming NCLB?

Non-Middle-Eastern Terrorists

Lest anyone believe that the only terrorists we need worry about are from Middle Eastern countries and have funny-sounding names, we have the story of one Jack Roche, foiled terrorist. Of course, if you didn't already know that terrorists could come from anywhere, you weren't paying attention when they arrested Jose Padilla... how many years ago was that?

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

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Liberal Thinking

One of Steven Den Beste's readers answers the question, "How far can you open your mind before your brains fall out?"

Couldn't She Afford A Whole Dress??

I'm not going to link to the picture, but I'm sure you can easily find on other blogs the picture of Alexandra Kerry's little black "dress". When I see stuff like this, I am reminded of an exchange between my mother and my grandfather that took place when she was a teenager. My mother was trying to sneak out of the house in something less than modest.

Grandfather (totally straightfaced and matter-of-fact): Going out to sell yourself on the street, dear?

Mom (astonished): Of course not, Dad!

Grandfather: Then don't advertise what you're not selling.

That's It, I'm Getting A Midwife!

The straw that broke the camel's back landed yesterday when I went to my doctor appointment, only to be verbally abused by a receptionist. I have had it with this medical system. I am getting a midwife and having this baby at home.

For anyone other than my sister and my brother-in-law who happens to be reading this blog and is wondering what I'm talking about, here's the backstory:

I love my OB-GYN, I really do. He's a great ex-military salty-dog type who did an exceptional job on my episiotomy and all. At my last birth he wasn't able to do much but get his gloves on in time to keep Sonshine from hitting the floor, and stitch me up afterward. But like all OB practices in our town, his is expanding past the point of practicality. There are now half a dozen people seeing patients at his practice where there used to be only him, the physician's assistant, and the nurse-midwife. It is just impossible to get in to see him unless you make appointments months in advance, which I can't do because I have kids with schedules that don't get announced until the week of the event. So I found a new OB who had just taken over a waning practice, and I started going to see him. All was well until December, when he announced that he was packing it in and moving to Oklahoma, leaving me to find a new caregiver at 20 weeks of pregnancy.

I was able to get in at my old OB's office, but I was not welcomed back with open arms. Ever since then I've been treated like an interloper. The staff there just sees me as an additional burden on them, not a patient who deserves respect.

Add to that our local hospital, which has a bureaucracy that makes China's old imperial bureaucracy look like a Girl Scout field trip. They set up a separate billing account for every single charge, then flood your mailbox with a plethora of bills for different amounts and services, and are somehow incapable of looking up or combining all your accounts into one. If you have to make payments, they require you to pay a tiny amount on each account, so that you are writing them a flurry of tiny checks every month. And when you call them with difficulties about it, they just laugh at you for being such an idiot that you can't keep track of your medical bills.

That's the backstory.

So yesterday I went to the OB appointment. I stood at the receptionist's desk for five minutes, waiting to check in for my appointment. When you are 33 weeks pregnant and suffering from sciatic nerve problems, standing for five minutes is an ordeal. I'd arrived early even though I know late afternoon appointments are usually running behind schedule. I waited there until the actual time of my appointment came around, before someone finally arrived to check me in. There was no bell to ring for service, and no one poked their head out and said "be right with you" during that entire time. Another doctor's office was using the other half of the counter, and no one at that half of the counter ever once turned to look at me or offered to get the attention of whoever was supposed to be checking in patients.

When someone finally did come, I explained that I'd been standing there for five minutes, and she launches into this tirade about how they are all very busy back there and I'll just have to deal with it, and if I don't like it I can just go find another doctor, and if I can find another doctor it'll be exactly the same there, and just on and on. There was a poster behind her head outlining the standard of care for patients and the positive attributes that the staff is supposed to have. I had a severe urge to run back to my car, get a marker, leap over the counter, and scribble out all those positive adjectives that would not be accurate descriptions of this horrid little twit. I didn't do it though, mostly because I didn't think I could leap the counter in my condition, and partly because having to fetch the marker would take all the spontaneity out of it.

Then I launched into the paperwork. She gave me some papers to fill out, and I made a payment on my account. She clearly indicated by the tone of her voice that she thought I was trying to make work for her by not paying my entire account at once. Considering that I've only been seen there twice, I thought the amount of the account was excessive, but I'll settle that later.

I decided that if I was going to have to pay for the visit anyway, I might as well stay and get my money's worth, so I had my prenatal exam and left.

When I got home, there was yet another bill from the hospital bureaucracy, this one for something I'd already paid twice, but I think the first check must have gotten lost in the mail because it never did clear my account. This bureaucracy is so dumb it doesn't even know when it's been paid. And they blame ME for not being able to keep track of it all.

In that same stack of mail was also the telephone bill, which for some reason has been having hissy fits lately. Our DSL charge was way too high, so I called them up. You know what they did? The first thing they did was apologize for their mistake. Then they credited my bill for the erroneous amount. Now THAT'S what customer service is supposed to be like.

I really don't have to pay for the privilege of putting up with this crap. I know a lay midwife; I'm trying to track her down through her son who works with me at the university, because the number I have for her has been disconnected. She shouldn't be too hard to find, and if not, I have a list of doulas in the area who can probably hook me up with a midwife. I'm so fed up with dealing with a system that doesn't make any effort to work with people because it thinks it's the only game in town. Well, it's not the only game in town, and I don't have to play.

Monday, May 17, 2004

See? Seeeeee????

Looks like there really were/are WMD's in Iraq.

Captain Ed at Captain's Quarters has some reasonable observations on the find.

Seven More Weeks

Baby Bagel is getting larger (much, much larger, it feels like!) and is running out of room. He's hanging so low that he feels like he's about to fall off my front like a ripe fruit off a tree. He's pretty quiet while I'm up and walking around, but I can't do much of that any more, and whenever I sit down or lay down, he kicks up a rumpus. The most vicious are the kicks to my bladder that send me running to the restroom.

Seven more weeks... five if I'm lucky...

This is the point in the pregnancy in which I advise all women loudly to just adopt children. There are plenty of kids out there that need caring for, that won't kick you in the bladder.

You Must All Read This

This is what the terrorists think of you. This is why they executed Nick Berg.

All my blog's readers must read this, all two of them.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Not Enough Math

I sometimes wonder about the state of math education in our country today, when ordinary people make comments to me about how smart I must be because I can figure sales tax and do unit conversions. It shouldn't take a Master's degree to do these things, it should take a high school diploma.

When I worked at a craft store, we had an arithmetic exam that we gave to all applicants for jobs there. This exam covered basic arithmetic-- the four operations, decimals and fractions-- and a few word problems of the "how much do 60 clothespins cost if clothespins are $1.50 a dozen" variety. You would not believe what percentage of our applicants could not pass this simple exam-- and which applicants they were. Once we had two high school students come in to take the exam, which they figured they would ace since they were both in calculus. Even cheating off each other, they couldn't pass this basic arithmetic exam. I should note that older ladies, who presumably had been out of school long enough to forget their math, had a very high pass rate.

Another time I was involved with a food storage group, producing recipes for storable foods. On the back of the recipe flyers we would print how much you'd have to store to add this dish to a two-week rotation menu of storable foods and eat it for a year. It was not hard to calculate it-- if a recipe calls for a cup of flour, and there are six ounces of flour to a cup, and you need to make the recipe 26 times, then you need 9.75 pounds of flour. People would come up to me and tell me how amazing it was that I could calculate this stuff. This was a technique I mastered in high school chemistry.

Last week I came up with a clever idea: a reverse sales tax table, for people at the Gardener's Market who wanted to charge whole-dollar prices that included tax. That way we could calculate on each transaction how much of the revenue should be rendered unto Caesar, and how much should be ours. It would also help in negotiating prices, knowing how much of the tax-included price we could afford to knock off. I used a bit of algebra (that would not be beyond the capacity of many of my 7th graders) to come up with the formula, then I used a spreadsheet to produce the table. My sister used it to calculate the amount of tax she owed for this week. I gave a copy to the vendor who inspired me to do it, and sent it by e-mail to the director of the market for distribution to the other vendors if they are interested. But I bet there will be vendors there scratching their heads as to how I managed to come up with such mystifying calculations.

It's a shame that despite universal compulsory education, we still have an environment where "ciphering" is an esoteric skill that only the most erudite can master.

Why Bother?

What's the point of having a substitute thing, when the real thing is (a) cheaper, (b) better?

I remember once hearing a woman in a radio interview (I think it was on the show "To The Best Of Our Knowledge") say that she loved white bread and didn't see any reason to eat wheat bread, since the white bread was fortified with all the nutrients that had been taken out of the wheat to make the bread white. My question is, why bother? If you are eating bread for the nutrients, why go to all the trouble of taking the nutrients out, then putting them back in? Why not just leave 'em where they are and eat them that way?

And now yet another study has come out supporting breast milk as a superior food for babies-- in this case, it suggests that breast milk in infancy reduces levels of heart disease in adults. There are times when formula use is inevitable, usually due to illness of either mother or baby. But why on Earth would women, particularly poor women, bother to spend hundreds of dollars a month on inferior food for their children, when their bodies will make free food that is better?

We have now raised an entire generation of kids to middle age, most of whom were formula fed. These are now fueling our "national epidemic" of obesity and its related diseases-- and it appears that the formula may have had a hand in it, not just lack of good diet and exercise. And still we persist in saying, "Let's all eat this substitute food-- we can always take pills later, and we'll be just as good as new!" It's like taking out the nutrients and then putting them back in. We're just making work for ourselves. Why bother?

Saturday, May 15, 2004

A loaf of bread, a jug of wine...

The Gardener's Market went well. We had $45 in revenues, not including trades. Not as much as last week, but not bad considering that last week was right before Mother's Day. Only organic stuff sold this week. All but one of the organic hot mitts are gone, so I'll have to make some more. M's new design of an accordion photo album was the only thing she sold today. She has some more supplies coming in this week, so she should have more saleable stuff next week.

Trades went better for me than for M this time; M didn't make any trades today. I had a great trade with the baker's daughter for a loaf of organic rye bread from the brand new bakery in town, and I got the pitcher I wanted from the potter this time. So I came home with a loaf of bread, and a jug (wine and thou not included, with apologies to Omar Khayyam).

UPDATE: a link to the pertinent background information on Khayyam, for the culturally illiterate.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

World's Second Longest English Word

And now, a blog post that actually uses the word "antidisestablishmentarian"-- and not in a post about words or spelling! Not only that, but it explains what the word means! (scroll down-- the word is in bold)

Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya

Which Princess Bride character are you?

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

So... what is Bush going to do about it?

Last night Favorite Husband and I were watching a Nova program on PBS about the Earth's magnetic field. The program first explained how magnetic fields work, then how pottery can be used to tell us about the Earth's magnetic field at the time the pottery was fired. They showed a very interesting graph of the strength of the field, based on the pottery data. And then it started to get ugly.

First I started yelling calculus instruction at the television, because the entire graph was being interpreted with the spin that for the last 300 years the Earth's magnetic field has been declining. The program seemed to be completely ignoring the fact that it was on its way down from a peak head and shoulders above every other reading. Of course it is declining. (That was one of the true/false questions on the last calculus exam I gave: the first derivative of a continuous function is, by necessity, negative on the right-hand side of a relative maximum.) And that this is a relatively recent development seemed to loom a little too large. The program seemed to beg the question, "Didn't the evil Industrial Revolution start accelerating this awful decline in the magnetic field??" The more rational question to ask, upon seeing the graph, was "Why did it peak? and what did that peak mean?", not "Omygosh, IT'S ON ITS WAY DOWN!!!!!!"

But it just got more sensational from there. The Earth's magnetic field is switching direction! Cataclysm will result! What, oh what, is the government going to do about it? (Like there's anything the government could do about it!) There was lots of hand-wringing, but not much action. To its credit, though, the program stopped short of condemning President Bush for policies that are inducing the Earth's magnetic field to collapse, or demanding an apology from him for magnetic field anomalies.

Honestly, I don't know why I'm surprised; it was, after all, PBS. I wish we could afford cable so that I could watch the History channel, but it was cable or DSL and we chose the DSL.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Here's to Jeff

May 10 is the birthday of my friend Jeff. He was a good friend to me for many of my childhood years. When the other girls were off having tea parties, and the other boys were off kicking dirt in the tea parties, Jeff and I went exploring, inventing, and creating. We would ride our bikes to the store and buy Everlasting Gobstoppers and invent things. We made a computer out of a box and backlit the paper screen with my lamp, until the duct tape holding the box together melted and burned to the top of my lightbulb. (I could smell that melting duct tape every time I turned it on until the lightbulb was eventually changed.) We crocheted together and made blue fake fur pouches just like the one Mr. Spock had (except his wasn't made out of fabulous blue fake fur). We made buddy burners and cooked hamburgers. Jeff was also a double agent, secretly spying on the boys and reporting back to the Girl Force, until the Girl Force sort of dissolved against my wishes into an ongoing Avon party.

I thought for sure I would marry Jeff when we got older. We got along so well.

When I was eleven, though, I moved away. Jeff remained in the town where we had lived. Unfortunately, he had suffered some abuse, and later decided he was gay. We went down two very different paths. The last time I saw him was at my wedding, where we took a "Mutt and Jeff" picture. He was over 6 feet tall, and I'm only 5'2".

After that he moved to San Francisco. We kept in touch, but one time we had a conversation about the issue of gay marriage. I didn't want to talk about it because I knew we didn't agree and weren't likely to, but he pushed it and I told him my opinion: that I supported a separate class of marriage (this was before the phrase "civil union" had been coined) but not a full equivalent marriage. After that he refused to speak to me. I e-mailed him with a standard "how are you and your partner" keeping-in-touch e-mail, and he responded with suspicion of my motives in asking about his partner. I tried to explain to him that this is how normal people greet each other, by inquiring about them and their significant ones, but he just wouldn't let go of his paranoia, and the exchange got a bit ugly. I refused to apologize to him for having my beliefs, and he thought I was bigoted and wanted him to be a second-class citizen. That was the last time I heard from him.

So on May 10 let's open a bottle of IBC root beer and make a toast to Jeff, the friend who got away.

Rhetoric-Free Analysis of Abu Ghraib

For those looking for a largely rhetoric-free analysis of the situation in Iraq and in particular the prisoner abuse scandal, here's Chief Wiggles' opinion.

UPDATE: Iraq The Model has an interview with an Iraqi doctor who treated patients at Abu Ghraib.

Eight More Weeks

From here on out, the pregnancy is basically more of the same. Bagel is pretty much ready for action, and will spend the next eight weeks (hopefully less...) putting on enough weight to withstand the rigors of adjustment to life outside the womb. At this point he's about four pounds, and will gain about half a pound a week. In four weeks he will pass the six-pound threshold that offers the best chance for survival. Bagel seems to like only two things to eat: meat and sugar. Lots of meat, and lots of sugary foods. I try to eat whole-grain things to give him the carbs he wants, and dairy for the protein, but he doesn't seem to like those. He just keeps making me crave meat and sweets alternately.

The pain in my tailbone is really, really bad, so I'm going to set four weeks as a goal to get through. After that, if I need additional time, I'll set another two-week goal, etc. I realize that there's nothing I can do to make the time go faster, nor can I know or control when it will end (except that in ten weeks it will all be over, one way or another). But I can divide the time into manageable chunks to get through, one at a time. I only have to walk as far as the horizon.

Based on the patterns of my previous pregnancies, I predict that Bagel will come early and quickly. The two previous pregnancies went to 37 and 38 weeks, and the labors were 8 hours and 4 hours. The 8 hour labor (Tiny Princess) would have been only 5 hours if they hadn't turned up my epidural so high that I spent three hours pushing. So I predict this labor will be three hours or less. At the rate I'm going, I may end up having this baby in the bathtub at home.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

News From The Gardeners' Market

The Gardener's Market went pretty well yesterday. Between the two of us, my sister M and I brought in over $60 in revenue. The hot selling items were, surprisingly, hot mitts. What surprised me most about them was that people were not buying them in pairs, but individually. The dishcloths in happy spring colors sold not at all, but the dishcloths in the organic cotton sold pretty well-- so well, in fact, that I had to order more yarn and was unable to spare enough dishcloths to trade with the ceramics artist in the next booth for a lovely pitcher. M, however, traded a pair of recycled-Shetland-wool socks and a hobo bag for a lovely jar with a lid; I'm jealous. There was some interest in the hobo bags too; we sold the green organic cotton one to a nice Japanese girl who wanted a new handbag. I want to introduce a few other bag styles and see how well they sell. I think little pouch-style bags might sell well.

We got a lot of ideas of what might sell well, that we hadn't thought of before. Lots of people who liked M's handmade books asked if she would make photo albums, so this week instead of making more socks she's going to make photo albums. I had an inquiry about wool diaper soakers. Thankfully I knew what those were (I'd uncovered them in my research into diapering alternatives a few years ago) and even knew where I could find patterns for them. I'll have a price quote for the lady next week.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Yes, My Kids Are Strange

I have a couple of very strange kids.

My kids love to sing, like almost all kids. But while Tiny Princess (ever the perky-perfect child) will inevitably choose a stirring rendition of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," Sonshine will, upon being requested to sing, launch into REM's "The One I Love". The songs they enjoy run the gamut from Gilbert and Sullivan's light opera "Pirates Of Penzance" to Voice Male's "Loch Lomond" to They Might Be Giants' "Dinner Bell" or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performing the Air Force song.

But what really makes them stand out in a crowd is the sort of thing they did in the Italian restaurant today.

Their favorite dish at this restaurant is Clams Oregano. They love fishing the clams out of the broth, opening them up, and eating them. Yes, my weird kids love clams-- almost as much as they love hamburgers. But the restaurant didn't have any clams today, so we ordered escargot. And the kids had seconds. (For the uninitiated, escargot are snails.)

After that, Sonshine wet his pants and had to be taken out and changed.

And at the end of the meal, Sonshine saw the dessert plate and went crazy. He started ordering desserts: "I would like tiramisu, please!" "I would like a canole, please!" I swear I have never before heard a four-year-old use the word "tiramisu", let alone in the correct context. Thankfully, the waitress understood that four-year-olds are not allowed to order their own desserts, especially when they have largely ignored their angel hair pasta with pesto.

So yes, I am raising my kids to be very, very... different. And now I have a six-year-old who likes escargot, so long as it is not sprinkled with lemon juice, and a four-year-old who sings REM songs and orders tiramisu at restaurants.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Lobster Questions

I love to eat lobster. I never would order it in restaurants, because of its expense; but then I moved to New Hampshire where there was a ready supply of it, and just went crazy. Ever since then I've loved lobster, although I'm back to scarcely ever eating it. But here's what I just don't understand about lobster: how on Earth did people decide it was something to eat?

As far as I know, lobsters live at the bottom of the sea, and don't generally walk up to shore. Occasionally, I would imagine, a dead one would wash up; but I've been told that dead lobsters are inedible, that they have to be cooked live or very recently killed, or else they make people ill. I'd love to have been a fly on the wall at the eating of the very first lobster, because I don't know many people who would see a dead lobster, watch their friend get sick eating it, then go seek out live ones at the bottom of the ocean to see if eating them would not make them sick. You'd have to be pretty damn hungry to go that far after something that looked like a giant bug.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

What, Oh What, Are We Going To Do?

There's much handwringing in the media right now (including the blogosphere) over what we should do about the abuse of Iraqi prisoners. Everything has been suggested from apologies to "blanket parties" to taking the soldiers out back and putting a few bullets through their heads.

The one thing no one seems to have suggested is that something already has been done about it.

Read the timeline on Mudville Gazette. Link courtesy of Lileks, via Instapundit.

Happy Memory

I thought I'd start the day off with a happy memory.

Favorite Husband loves to take pictures, often lots of repetitive pictures. When he returned from a three-month stint in Saudi Arabia, he showed me the pictures he'd taken. They were a distinct improvement over the pictures he'd taken at his previous duty stations, which mostly consisted of his drunk friends flipping him off. But I still found many of them repetitive and boring.

I found one picture that was nothing but camouflage netting. Annoyed at having to look at so many pictures of sand and guys who all looked the same, I asked him "Why on Earth did you take a picture of camouflage netting??"

"See the truck?" he asked. And sure enough, if you looked closely, there was a truck under the netting.

Favorite Husband always knows just how to make people smile. In that same batch of pictures there was a picture of him next to a camel. And somehow he had gotten the camel to smile for the picture.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Demands For Apology, Round 2

On the way back from Fastenal I was listening to our local talk radio station, which carries ABC news. The newsgal read a story on Bush's comments on the abuse of prisoners in Iraq, and at the end, in a rather snarky tone, commented "Still no apology from President Bush."

What do these media people want from President Bush? If he were to say the words "I'm sorry", they would complain that there was an insufficient quantity of groveling and/or sincerity in it. In fact, I think that they wouldn't accept the apology unless Bush were to strip himself naked and be made to lay on the floor at the bottom of a human pyramid. But then that would make them as bad as the soldiers they rush to condemn, wouldn't it?

The Crib Fiasco

Recall from a previous post that I couldn't find the bolts for the crib and had to buy new ones? Well, it didn't occur to me that some of them would need to be different lengths, so I had to go back and get some shorter ones. When I went back to the hardware store, I really wanted to get bolts with hex heads so that I could drive them with a socket wrench, which is much easier to get into the space than a screwdriver. So I got these bolts that were about the same, only had hex heads. Turned out metric bolts don't fit well in the little built-in nuts that were screwed into the wood. When I tried to take them out, they took the nuts out with them. Then I tried to get the nuts off, but they were made of some soft metal, and they just bent and scratched. Since I couldn't get the bolts out, I had to cut one off with my little rotary tool; otherwise I would have had to replace the bracket too.

Then I had to chase all over town looking for two of these nutty little nut-things. The hardware store didn't have any, and sent me to a business called Fastenal over in the industrial part of town. She gave me directions, but when I went to the building she'd directed me to, I could see no sign with that name on it. So I parked down at one end of it, and walked the entire length of the building, asking directions as I went. At that end of the building I was assured that Fastenal was at the other end of the building, but when I got to the other end and still hadn't found it, I was told that it was in the near end of the next building. So I went there, and asked for directions again, and found that it was at the OTHER end of the OTHER building. I finally found it. This would not have been such a big deal, except that today I can barely walk for the pain in my hip and leg.

I had to special-order the nut-things and they won't be in until Monday. So until then, I will have to keep the kids from climbing on the half-assembled crib.

Moral of this story: ALWAYS bag your bolts and TAPE THE BAG SECURELY to the furniture you are disassembling.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Keeping Kids Safe

I should begin by saying that I am most emphatically NOT Safety Mom. Safety Mom requires that her kids wear bike helmets and knee pads to ride bikes in the driveway. Safety Mom owns every childproofing device ever invented by man. Safety Mom carries an extra set of these in a plastic tote in the back of her mini-van because not everyone's house is childproof. Safety Mom's kids have no fun whatsoever. And Safety Mom's kids grow up too stupid to realize that they aren't supposed to stick their fingers in the electrical sockets, because Safety Mom has never had to tell them not to do it.

Sure, I take basic precautions. I'll put gates by the stairs and have latches on many of my cabinets, and I store cleaners in those cabinets with latches. But kids are way smarter than the adults who invent childproofing devices. I had a rabbit once who figured out how to defeat his cage latch; I know my kids are smarter than rabbits. While an adult is still baffled by the latch on the cabinet, the one-year-old has already figured out that if she leans a certain way on the door while opening it, she can defeat the latch. So I put a premium on teaching my children not to mess with things they find in my cabinets. They have their own cabinets; they can mess with anything in there.

One thing I discovered being a mom is that you can't keep your children safe from everything there is in the universe. You can do your best to mitigate the risks and keep them from obvious dangers, but the best way to keep them out of danger is to train them not to get into it, rather than trying to physically keep them out of it.

Sonshine in particular loves to do dangerous things, just because he can and they feel great. I bet his guardian angel detail gets hazard pay. And I do what I can to keep him out of trouble. But it's just impossible; sometimes the only way he'll learn is to get himself into trouble. So whenever I can, I have to carefully select which trouble experiences he'll get, to maximize his learning while minimizing the danger. People may scoff at me letting him jump off things headfirst or get himself stuck in stair railings, but if I tell him not to do it and he does it anyway and it hurts somewhat, he learns that Mom was right, and is more likely to listen to me when I tell him I don't think it's a good idea to stick that in the electrical socket.

Nine More Weeks

We now enter the Countdown To Baby Bagel. Nine weeks remain until the due date (which, given my obstetric history, probably means that I'll have a nice toasty little bun in my arms in about seven weeks).

Yesterday I got the crib out of the shed and halfway assembled it. I was having a great day-- the pain in my legs was gone, the pain in my back subsided after a morning visit to the chiropractor, I was able to take more than three steps without getting winded, both the kids were at school, and I wasn't at work! I couldn't think of another day in the next seven weeks when this confluence of events was likely to happen again, so I did the heavy lifting and got the crib out even though it'll just gradually fill with Tiny Princess' toys for the next several weeks.

I could not find the bolts for the crib, however, so I had to go buy new bolts. I got the right size for four of them, but when I got them home I realized that the other ten had to be considerably shorter than those four, and would probably be much better as hex head bolts than phillips head bolts anyway. I'll have to buy some more bolts today.

Saturday is the first day of the rest of my life the Gardener's Market, where I will discover just how unsuccessful I can be wonderful my products are. My first auction on eBay of the dishcloths went well, so I posted three more, this time with a higher minimum bid. One of them already has a bid.

For Creative Writers

My brother-in-law Crimson Waste invites creative writers to check out the creative writers' forums on this website.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Abuse of Iraqi Prisoners

The photo of the Iraqi prisoners naked and forming a human pyramid made the front page of our local newspaper today. I had heard about the abuse of the prisoners, but I have to admit that my first thought, on seeing the picture, was that it looked like something the National Endowment for the Arts might have funded.

While I'm totally not in favor of abusing anyone that way, it just strikes me as ironic that if Robert Mapplethorpe had thought to do this and take pictures, the metrosexual art-house crowd would have been clapping their hands profusely and praising his artistic merit.

Computer Problems

Whew! I thought for a minute there I was going to lose my computer for the week. Favorite Husband managed to do something so heinous to his laptop that it required him to take the main computer apart. (I don't understand how this works, since the two were not connected at the time.) I thought for a bit that I was going to have to be without a computer for the week, since he's going on a business trip this week. It would have been OK-- I don't have a whole lot that absolutely needs to get done on the computer this week, and what I do have could be done at my parents'-- but still, it's nice to have a working computer that is not in bits on the floor.

I also see that Favorite Husband has removed the possessed DVD-ROM drive. It became possessed the week before last after a brief power outage, and refused to close its drawer. After briefly considering using it as a handy cup holder, I closed the drawer and unplugged it before it could open again. I'm not entirely sure why we need it (it is sitting right on top of a second DVD drive, which evidently is a cooler one because it writes DVDs as well), but F.H. says he needs to replace it now.

We Had To Tell The Kids

Today we had to tell the kids about their great-grandma's stomach cancer. We are having a family fast for her health, and we are all praying for the success of her surgery on Friday. I'd told the kids Nana was sick, but didn't tell them how sick or what she was sick with. Tiny Princess had written her a lovely get-well letter that cheered her up considerably.

But this morning when I tried to tell them about the fast, they asked exactly how Nana was sick and wouldn't accept vague, noncommittal answers. And evidently Tiny Princess had heard more than we thought she had-- she mentioned the phrase "the size of a walnut" which had been used by the family to describe the tumor. Princess had many, many more questions too-- whether kids could get cancer, whether it was contagious, what happens when you have cancer, whether cancer is caused by germs... she's my little scientist! Sonshine just sat there and listened, as is his habit when learning something new.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Thoughts On Mom's Graduation

Yesterday I attended a graduate hooding ceremony at my alma mater. My mother finally received her Master's, making her the third in our family to receive an advanced degree. (My dad and I got ours first.)

Aside from all the logistical problems of getting a seven-months-pregnant woman with a twisted foot and a four-year-old rubber ball boy up the side of a steep hill to the building where the ceremony took place, and keeping said boy occupied in stadium seating during what is normally naptime, it was a great ceremony. We had to leave early, though, because you can only separate a boy and his nap for so long, and besides we had to be there for Tiny Princess' arrival home from school.

It made me think about all that my mom sacrificed for us. She had started graduate school nearly thirty years ago, but quit because it came down to a choice between being there for us and getting her degree. In a way it shames me that I didn't make the same choice; I gave birth to Tiny Princess during what was supposed to have been my first year in grad school, and Sonshine the semester I was supposed to be defending my paper. As much as I like having my graduate degree (it enables me, for one thing, to earn more money in fewer hours away from my kids than I might otherwise have done) I sometimes wish I'd made the right choice and put my family first, instead of spending so many years being selfish.

Why We Fight

There are many people who question why we have to go to Iraq to fight against terrorism. War is indeed a horrible thing which we do not undertake lightly. But the alternative is much, much worse.

If we do not go to war overseas to fight terrorism, we will be forced to wait to fight it until it comes to our shores. Merely waiting for an attack would put the kibosh on any and all economic development, so we would have to go on the offensive with a slew of Homeland Security measures. And for them to be truly effective, we would have to give up many of the liberties we now enjoy. If you think the Patriot Act is bad, think of what we would have to enact to catch all terrorists in the United States. Library records would not be enough. We would be looking at something positively Orwellian. You know how you can't stock up on Sudafed any more because some idiots use it to make speed? Make it that way with everything. You won't even be able to buy so much as a bag of manure to fertilize your garden without coming under scrutiny.

It is because of this that our troops overseas in Iraq are indeed fighting for freedom and liberty-- not just that of the Iraqis, but ours as well. Because the alternatives to taking the fight to the enemy are cowering in fear waiting for the enemy to attack us, or losing our freedoms.